ADA’s six point flood & drought risk management plan

ADA’s six point flood & drought risk management plan

A General Election inevitably lurks around the corner and most likely will occur at some point in 2024, and no later than 28 January 2025. The recent storms have focused minds on just how important the operation of our flood risk management systems is, and we must not forget the dual use that many of these play to move water from one place to another in times of drought.

For many years, successive Governments have applied policies to flood risk management driven by a particular form of economic thinking that promotes capital investment at the expense of getting the right balance between that and operational revenue spending. England has also taken a reactive approach to flood risk management rather than taking a series of longer-term planned interventions. ADA argues that we have reached a tipping point where the cost of reacting to storm or other climatic events is outweighing the costs of a planned and pro-active approach.

ADA wants to see all political parties bring forwards major step-changes to the way we manage our risks through policy change and carefully costed long-term plans for both capital investment and revenue spending. Currently, for every £1 spent on maintenance, studies show that we are getting £11 back in benefits. For capital spending, that figure reduces considerably to £1 spent giving £5 in return.

To help our political decision-makers with this vitally important subject, ADA has prepared a simple, six-point plan to boost the UK’s reputation for flood risk management excellence. At its heart is a greater focus on the fundamental everyday management and maintenance of our whole catchments for the full benefit of people, the economy and our environment.

ADA’s six key policy asks for better flood & drought risk management

1. Long term investment horizons in the face of climate change challenges

Flood risk management delivers enduring benefits. Authorities involved need to be able to plan ahead financially over multiple years and receive a sensible balance of capital and revenue funding, spread across the river catchments, in order to find efficiencies through climate change adaptation and resilience, and attract business investment.

2. Manage our rivers and flood defences from source to sea

Managing water within whole catchments provides the best outcomes for society and our environment. ADA is concerned about the capacity and condition of a number of our major lowland river systems and want to see a costed plan put in place for their repair and long term maintenance, alongside funding agreements for farmers and IDBs to safely store flood water in parts of our lowlands.

3. Robustly address surface water flood risks

The next government needs to fully implement Schedule 3 of the Flood & Water Management Act 2010, with appropriate resource and financial backing, to ensure future development can keep pace with the challenges of the changing climate, by ensuring that sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) are built and then maintained over the lifetime of a development.

4. Greater local decision making for better catchment management

Now is the time to empower local professionals and communities to work together to sustainably manage and operate these catchments. In some parts of England there is an appetite for greater local maintenance delivery on watercourses and flood defence assets than that currently afforded from national investment. This can be achieved via the careful transfer of some main river maintenance to local bodies or the expansion of areas maintained by those local bodies, such as IDBs, where there is local support and transitional funding.

5. Support local funding for flood & water management

It is vital that Special Levy funding for IDBs’ flood and water level management is unconstrained from rate capping rules burdening Local Authorities, in order to maintain the democratic link with local communities. Furthermore, recent serious flood events have demonstrated that a mechanism for providing emergency financial assistance to IDBs responding to, and recovering from serious incidents is needed.

6. Improving regulations to integrate water level and flood risk management

Internal Drainage Boards are effectively acting as water resource managers and environmental custodians in lowland areas but, under the Land Drainage Act 1991, have no legislative basis to do that. Improvements to regulations and the enabling of the Ratings SI in the Environment Act would lead to collaborative improvements to integrated water level and flood risk management in lowland catchments pressured by climate change.